Friday, October 31, 2003

A Recipe for All Hallow's Eve, from eldest younger brother Tom

[is the St. Blog's Cookbook still active?]

Fowl Flesh in Grimy Green Guts with Toadstools
A new recipe for Hallowe'en
Thomas E. Knapp


5 boneless-skinless chicken breasts
1 lb Gemelli Pasta
2 7-oz containers Genova Pesto (Trader Joe’s)
1 8-oz box white mushrooms
2 medium size Portobello mushrooms
½ C grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbl garlic powder
White pepper, to taste


1) Get a 6-8 quart pot, and put 6 quarts of lightly salted water on to boil.

2) While the water’s getting hot, cut the white mushrooms into quarters, reserving 4-6 of the smallest, whole, for decoration.

3) Slice one of the Portobello mushrooms.

4) Slice the chicken breasts into strips. Think fajita, or stir-fry.

5) By now, the water should be boiling. Add the pasta, and cook according to the package instructions.

6) Drain the pasta. Put half a container of the pesto in the pot, while it’s still warm. As soon as the pasta is reasonably drained, put it back in the pot, add the rest of the first package of pesto, and stir it up until the pesto is evenly distributed. The oil in the pesto should keep the pasta from sticking together.

7) In a LARGE fry pan or sauterne, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Heat the pan, and sauté the chicken strips with the garlic powder and white pepper, to taste, cooking them all the way. Remove the chicken, and add another shot of olive oil. Sauté the sliced portobello and the white mushrooms, just til the Portobello slices are cooked. Reduce the heat to a very low simmer.

8) Add the chicken back into the fry pan. Stir it to mix with the mushrooms. Add most of the second container of pesto, and stir til everything is a pretty green.

9) Add the chicken and mushrooms to the pasta, in the big pot, stirring to make sure everything gets off the bottom. Add the grated Parmesan at this point, so it gets mixed in.

10) In a small sauté pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and put the seasoned whole Portobello mushroom in, gill side down, to cook. Turn down the heat so it doesn’t scorch.

11) Transfer the pasta mixture to your serving dish or crock pot. Place the whole cooked Portobello in the center, and the reserved whole white mushrooms along the edge for decoration.

12) Mangia!
long but good: Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver on Women's Work, to the Catholic Daughters

something to keep everybody here well-nourished while I get some beauty sleep --- for the first time since I became disabled, I'm going to the All-Night Vigil tonight! Article via the Catholic Declaration of Faith Listserv.

WORLD, WORK AND FAMILY: The role of women in building a culture of life
October 19, 2003
Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Denver

I want to talk about women today. So naturally I'm going to start by talking about men – not because they're more important than women, but because they're not.

Back in June I had the pleasure of viewing an early version of Mel Gibson's new movie, The Passion of Christ. It's really a wonderful film. I hope all of you will see it and bring others to see it -- although I need to warn you that it's not for young children. It's too real and too violent.

But it's also very moving. I saw it with five other men, just a small group in a small room. When the movie ended, it took at least a minute for anybody to say anything. The emotions were so strong that none of us could come up with the right words.

Now as a bishop, I talk about Jesus a lot, so I began to wonder why this one film had affected me so deeply. I began to notice that other men who saw the film had the same experience. I've known a lot of faithful Catholic men in my life. But I know a lot more who don't know how to articulate their faith, and many others who simply delegate the "religion thing" off to their wives and daughters. The Passion of Christ does something unusual to men. Some can't get the film out of their head for weeks after seeing it. And now I think I know why. There are two reasons.

A lot of us grow up with a mental picture of Jesus that's really very strange. It doesn't correspond to His reality at all. Some of us tend to imagine Jesus as either an unearthly miracle-maker or a vaguely effeminate holy man. We don't know how to resolve who Christ is. We believe that Jesus is fully God and fully man. We say that publicly at every Sunday Mass in the Creed. But we have nothing to look at to help us see what that means.

I think one reason men remember The Passion of Christ is because Jim Caviezel -- who gives just an astonishing performance -- shows us Jesus as someone who is absolutely real, both in the divinity of His person, and in the humanity of His nature, friendships and suffering. And that manliness of Jesus, that heroism, is something men can respect and love and want to follow.

But of course, manliness and heroism don't exist in a vacuum. They're shaped by many things, but especially by examples of courage. They're formed by a daily, intimate experience of love, with all the little moments of joy and sorrow, teasing, correction and encouragement that are part of real life. And that's the second reason men remember The Passion of Christ. Not every man has a wife or sisters, but almost every man has the memory of his mother's unconditional love. Every man knows in his heart that the best of what he is comes through his parents, and especially from his mother. And what Maya Morgenstern shows us so movingly as Mary in The Passion of Christ is how the love of a mother touched the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus shared exactly the same moments of maternal tenderness and humor that every son thrives on.

In our piety sometimes we tend to think of Mary as a "means to an end," the vehicle God used to bring His son into the world. But God chose Mary not to "use" her like an instrument, but because He loved her. He saw in her the beauty and character of a woman who would freely and lovingly shape His son into the man He needed to be. We can't understand Jesus outside the love of His mother, any more than we can understand ourselves outside the experience of our families.

When we listen to the Sermon of Jesus on the Mount -- "Blessed are you who are poor; the kingdom of God is yours" (Lk 6:20) -- we're also hearing Mary: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior . . . [for] He has lifted up the lowly; the hungry He has filled with good things, while the rich He has sent away empty" (Lk 1:46-47, 52-53). Out of the faith and the flesh of Mary, the woman, God fashions the Redeemer of the world. Without Mary, there is no story of redemption. Without Mary, the woman of faith, there is no Jesus, the Son of God.

Over the last few months, I've wondered many times why a film like The Passion of Christ would trigger so much controversy even before it gets to the theaters. Maybe you've heard about it in the media. One allegation against the film is anti-Semitism, which is a very serious sin. The Jewish community has good reason to always be alert for it. As Catholics, we need to understand and respect that concern. And we need to do everything we can to resist any prejudice against the Jewish people.

But having seen the film, I don't think anything in The Passion of Christ qualifies as anti-Semitism. I think that secular hostility to the film comes from something deeper and more inarticulate than any worries about religious prejudice. We might even track the source of that hostility to one particular moment in the film that every Christian already knows, whether we've seen the movie or not.

Near the very end of The Passion of Christ, soldiers take the body of Jesus down from the cross. They place Him in the arms of His mother. It's an image we all remember from the 13th Station of the Cross, and from Michelangelo's great sculpture, the Pieta. And we're left with a picture of a man who -- out of love -- has accepted betrayal, beatings, humiliation and death on the cross; and a woman who -- out of love – has stayed with Him as He suffered and died, and who now cradles her dead son in her arms, in the same way she held him as an infant.

I think we find the greatness of Mary right here, in this moment. She's lost everything. She's an image of humiliation and powerlessness. But she's also a picture of what Job meant when he said, "Though [God] slay me, yet will I trust in Him" (Jb 13:15, KJV). Mary's kind of faith is unreasonable. Mary's kind of love is too deep, too strong and too unselfish -- and it offends the pride of the modern world.

The reason the secular world hates films like The Passion of Christ is because they persuade the heart with the logic of love. The reason the secular world seeks to reinvent or reinterpret Mary is because she's dangerous. She's the model of mature human character --a human being who co-creates a new world not through power, but through unselfish love, faith in God, and the rejection of power.

That kind of witness goes against the spirit that dominates our world -- the immaturity and selfishness in our personal consumption, our politics and our workplaces, and even within our families. André Malraux once asked a priest to name the single biggest lesson he had learned from hearing confessions. Without skipping a heartbeat the priest said, "There are no grown-up people."

The struggle for power is what the modern world is all about. It really doesn't take very long to go from Francis Bacon saying, "Knowledge is power;" to Napoleon Bonaparte saying, "I love power. But I love it as an artist. I love it as a musician loves his violin, to draw on its sounds and chords and harmonies;" to Josef Stalin saying, "One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic."

Just read the newspapers. The result of our immaturity and selfishness at every level of American daily life is a competition that breeds an anger that breeds violence -- the violence of open warfare; of religious terrorism; of unjust wages and unjust immigration policies; of simply putting our own comfort above the needs of others; the violence of abuse and infidelity between spouses; and even the polite violence of the language we use to smooth over the killing of new life.

On October 8, the Associated Press reported that "a new combination of blood tests and ultrasound can detect fetuses with Down syndrome sooner, and more accurately, than standard U.S. screening tests, offering women more peace of mind and more time to decide whether to end a pregnancy." The article quoted one researcher as saying that, "The absolute biggest advantage is that this allows women to make private decisions" before they're visibly pregnant.

Peace of mind and the power to decide are good things, but not if the price tag is a human life. Children with Down syndrome are not a mistake or a failure. Imagining them that way only reveals our own lack of humanity. A friend of mine who's the mother of a son with a disability likes to say that the only difference between German doctors in the 1930s and some of our own medical establishment today is that now we have better PR firms. The hostility to human weakness, the anger at human imperfection, is exactly the same now, as it was then.

Children with Down syndrome are children of God. They can live happy and fruitful lives. They give far more love back to their parents than they ever take. And because they belong first to God, killing them can never be a "private decision." It always has wider consequences -- beginning with the grief of the mother. It's the woman who bears the spiritual cost of an abortion. Not the doctor, not the researcher, and too often, not even the father. That's the lie in sanitized language like "peace of mind" and "private decision." The mother always bears the cost, because every mother is always a part of her child.

I've spoken a lot, over the years, about our culture of selfishness -- the unrest that forces us to keep feeding our appetites to prove that we control the world around us – but it bears repeating here, because our immaturity and self-absorption have created four big problems.

The first problem is our inability to reason. Reasoning takes time. It needs a vocabulary of ideas. Reasoning forces us to test and compare competing arguments. But the America we live in today is a culture built on marketing, and marketing works in just the opposite way. Marketing feeds our desires and emotions, and it suppresses critical thought, because thinking gets in the way of buying the product or the message. That's why marketing is tied so tightly to images -- like fast cars on an empty road. Images work on our appetites, quickly and very effectively, at the subconscious level.

Here's a second problem: our inability to remember. The historian Christopher Lasch once said that Americans are a people stranded in the present moment. We like nostalgia, because it's a kind of entertainment. But we really don't like history because the past -- as it really happened -- burdens us with all sorts of unfinished business. It's a pain in the neck. History imposes obligations on the present, but Americans prefer to think that we invent ourselves, and that anything is possible. The result is that Americans usually have a very poor grasp of history, and we learn too little, too late, from the lessons of the past.

The third problem is our inability to imagine and hope. Americans like immediate results. We're practical. We're very good at making money, and we're very, very good at science and technology. But technology always comes with a price. Edward Tenner called this the "revenge of unintended consequences." And one of the unintended consequences of our science is that we're now the victims of our own power.

When Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua retired earlier this month, I had the privilege of succeeding him as interim chair of the bishops' Pro-Life Activities Committee. And one of my first jobs was reviewing a proposed letter to congressional leaders that objected to granting patents on human beings and embryos. Thirty years ago, "manufacturing" a human person was unimaginable. Now it's plausible. Now it's in the neighborhood, and what's worse, we've lost the moral vocabulary to deal with it. We've forgotten how to talk about the soul, and why the human person is more than just another animal or product.

Hope and imagination flow out of a belief in a higher purpose to our lives. If we're nothing more than very intelligent carbon atoms, then hope and imagination are just quirks of our species. They don't really mean anything. And any talk about the "sanctity of the human person" is just a lot of beautiful but empty words.

The fourth and final problem is our inability to live real freedom. Freedom is more than an endless supply of choices. Choice for its own sake is just another form of idolatry. Real freedom is the ability to see -- and the courage to do -- what's right. But when we begin to doubt that right and wrong exist, we also lose our ability to talk about things like freedom, truth and the sanctity of the human person in a common vocabulary.

What we get instead of freedom is a kind of anarchy of pressure groups and personal agendas held together by just one thing: the economy we all share . . . and that's not the basis of a community or even a good conversation. In fact our economy, more than anything else in modern life, teaches us to see almost everything as an object to be bought or sold. This is what Jeremy Rifkin means when he describes American culture as more and more a "paid-for experience" based on the commodification of passion, ideals, relationships and even time. If we want freedom, we buy it by purchasing this car or that computer. If we want romance, we buy it by purchasing this cruise or that hotel package.

The trouble is, the more that our advertising misuses the language of our dreams and ideals to sell consumer goods . . . the more confused our dreams and ideals become. We trick ourselves to the point where we no longer recognize what real love, honest work, freedom, truth, family, patriotism -- and even life itself -- look like.

This is the world American women face in 2003. And they have two ways to deal with it. The first is to compete head on with men for a piece of the power. That means beating men at their own game. And of course, the record of the last 50 years shows that women have all of the same intellectual skills as men and many of the same physical abilities. In some areas, even in the military, women clearly outperform men.

But there's a catch. There's a cost. The price tag of this kind of "equality" too often means denying the differences between women and men. It can mean being just as competitive and aggressive as men. It can mean putting career first. It can mean fearing the things that make up the feminine genius -- the acts that make women, women. That's why so much of today's secular feminism hates fertility. That's why abortion and contraception are such important secular icons, even though they attack human sexuality at its roots. Fertility is seen as a weakness. Children mean taking responsibility for somebody else. Children mean -- or should mean – that a woman will depend on the love of a husband. And that's frightening, because too many men today never learned how to be men.

This kind of false "equality" doesn't work because it tries to escape who we are. It makes us look at and interpret the world through a broken piece of glass. Germans in the 1930s looked at everything through the lens of race. Marx saw the world through the lens of class struggle. And now we have a generation of new thinkers making exactly the same mistake, not with some bad racial or economic theory as their lens, but with gender.

Not one of these tools for understanding human experience works. All of them always lead to somebody suffering. The reason is pretty simple. We can't explain the human person without including God in the conversation. And God has something to say to us about ourselves, both in Scripture and through His Church.

Genesis tells us that, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Gen 1:27). That one simple truth about the equality of men and women flows through 4,000 years of faith. Sometimes we've forgotten it. Many times we haven't lived it well. But it underpins all of Catholic culture so strongly that even Christianity's greatest enemies have seen it.

In 1665, right at the peak of Muslim conquest in Europe, a Turkish writer and diplomat -- Evliya Celebi -- visited Vienna. In his report home he wrote:

"In this country I saw a most extraordinary spectacle. Whenever the emperor meets a woman in the street, if he is riding, he brings his horse to a standstill and lets her pass. If the emperor is on foot and meets a woman, he stands in a posture of politeness. The woman greets the emperor, who then takes his hat off his head to show respect for the woman. After the woman has passed, the emperor continues on his way. In this country and in general in the land of the [Christians], women have the main say. They are honored and respected out of love for Mother Mary."

Bernard Lewis, the great Middle East scholar, once said that the status of women is the single most profound difference between Christian and Muslim civilization. He noted that early "Muslim visitors to Europe [spoke] with astonishment, often with horror . . . of the incredible freedom [and] deference" shown to Western women.

Of course, that little history lesson doesn't do a lot for women experiencing bias or mistreatment right here, right now. But it does show us two things.

First, no movement, ideology, political party or institution anywhere, in any country, can match the Christian faith in promoting the dignity of women. And second, women should always turn to the Church as their mother and defender, because in her arms, in her strength, they can begin to re-humanize the world.

People who criticize the Church for not ordaining women to the priesthood ignore her record of promoting the dignity of women. They also misunderstand the nature of the Church herself, the sacramental nature of the priesthood and the Christian understanding of equality based on different but complementary gifts from God.

Pope Paul VI once said that, "Within Christianity, more than in any other religion and since its very beginning, women have had a special dignity." The Closing Message of the Second Vatican Council said that,

"The hour is coming, in fact has already come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness; the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved."

What that influence means and how that power is used -- those are the questions that every woman in this audience will help answer.

"Man and woman He created them." God made men and women equal but different for a reason -- to love each other, to help and complete and depend on each other in the family and in the world. The genius of women is different from the genius of men. Every few months I visit my mother in Kansas, and each time it's a little more difficult because she's 93 now, and I know I won't have her for much longer. But even now I can still look in her eyes, and beneath all the age and the cares and the memories, I can still see the young woman my father loved, and why he loved her.

Women express their genius through mercy, patience, endurance and forgiveness -- a hunger to embrace and protect what Edith Stein described as the "living, personal and whole." But they also have a realism that comes from the labor of bearing new life. I think women, better than men, know what's true and important about the world. Sigrid Undset, the great Norwegian woman writer, once said that, "Facts may be true, but they are not truths -- just as wooden crates or fence posts or doors or furniture are not 'wood' in the same way a forest is, since it consists of the living and growing material from which these things are made." Men usually understand the facts of their daily life. But I think women more easily see the truth of the people and the relationships hidden behind the facts.

The genius of every woman is to love; to protect and nourish the lives entrusted to her; and to support the full development of life in others. It's the same whether you're a mother, or a consecrated religious, or a woman who lives the single vocation. It was true for Dorothy Day in all of her political organizing. Day once described her radicalism as "works of mercy." And in converting to the Catholic faith she said, "I loved, [and] like all women in love, I wanted to be united to my love." The genius for love is written on the heart of every woman, and it's the same whether you're a teacher or lawyer, a scientist or secretary.

St. Teresa of Avila, one of the great doctors of the Church and the intellectual equal of any man of her day, reminded herself and her Carmelite sisters every morning to, "Accustom yourself continually to many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul." Teresa knew what was true and important. Women who love well become real women. And in becoming real women, they draw men into being true men.

When the Catholic Daughters of the Americas began 100 years ago, the world was a very different place. As I was browsing through my copy of A Century in Review – which is a wonderful history of the Daughters, and if you don't have a copy, I hope you can get one – I was struck by the character I found in so many of the faces of the women who have led and served the Daughters over the years.

These were strong, intelligent women. They deeply loved their faith. Each of their lives was a seed that bore fruit in service to the Church, defense of the family, religious education, help for the poor, support for the missions -- in other words, in almost every form of Catholic apostolic action in the world. Their legacy now belongs to this assembly today. And believe me, the Church needs you. Mother Church needs Catholic Daughters. And the world urgently needs the witness of Catholic women -- because the next 100 years will be even more challenging, than the last.

For each of us, the future belongs to the plan of God. He made each of us different to do different parts of His work, and to be saints by different paths. Earlier today Pope John Paul II beatified another Teresa, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and I think in her understanding of love -- the same unconditional love Mary had at the foot of the cross -- we can end our words and begin our actions.

Blessed Teresa said,

"Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right there where you are -- in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools . . . You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society -- completely forgotten, completely left alone."

So beginning here, today, right now, may God grant us the courage to be the women and men He created us to be. May God grant us the courage to love.

Thank you for the privilege of being with you today.
Another intriguing quiz

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?


Thursday, October 30, 2003

Another desert mother story, from a source known as "The Spiritual Meadow"

Amma Damiana told us this too:
Once, I went to the Church of Sts. Cosmas and Damian and spent the whole night there. In the evening, there came an old woman, a native of Phrygian Galatia, and she gave two copper coins to everybody who was in the church. I knew her because she had often given some to me.

One day, a kinswoman of mine and of the most faithful emperor Maurice came to pray at the Holy City and stayed there for a year. Taking her with me, I went to Sts. Cosmas and Damian. While we were in the oratory, I said to my kinswoman, "Look, my lady, when an old woman comes distributing two coins to each person, please swallow your pride and accept them." With obvious distaste, she said, "Do I have to accept them?" "Yes," I said. "Take them, for the woman is great in the eyes of God. She fasts through the week, and whatever she is able to gain by this discipline she distributes it among those who are found in the church. She is a widow of about eighty years of age. Take the coins she offers you and give them to somebody else. Do not refuse the sacrifice of this old woman."

As we were speaking in this way, the old woman came in and began her almsgiving. In silence and with serenity she came and gave me some coins. She gave some to my kinswoman too, saying, "Take these, and eat." When she had gone, we realized that God had revealed to her that I had said, "Take them and give them to a poor person." My kinswoman therefore sent a servant of hers to get vegetables with the two coins. These she ate, and she affirmed before God that they were as sweet as honey. This both astonished her, and led her to give thanks to God who endows His servants with grace.


Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Divine Liturgy VI: Go, you are sent.

Why do we call the Mass the Mass? Because "missa est". Now that we have received Eucharist, we are commanded to take Eucharist with us outside the walls, beyond the walls, to all and everywhere.

That command, "Ite, missa est" is clear enough in just plain translation, but it's even clearer when we remember that it was military jargon, a command roughly equivalent to the modern command "fall out". The military company comes together for morning roll call, receives the orders of the day, their duty assignments, and then they "fall out" to go do them. We, the members of the Body of Christ, have received the Body of Christ, and more deeply become the Body of Christ, our general orders to be holy; now there is a time where any "special orders of the day" can be presented --- the announcements. Then we are blessed for our further strengthening, and then we are sent, and we begin the adventure of being the Body of Christ outside the church walls, beyond the church realm, every place we are and in every situation we may be in, throughout the entire world.

The mission is ours; may we accept it and fulfill it with joy.
Divine Liturgy V: We become what we receive, amen, amen.

It's an old, old truism that "you are what you eat." Before us, appearing in the lowly form of bread, is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and we are invited to come and eat. We know we are not worthy of such a great and awe-filled privilege, but we also know that it's not so much an invitation as it is a command --- we must eat and drink if we are to live. So, as we begged at the very beginning, we ask again, only say the word, my Lord, and I shall be healed. And we come, and bow, and eat. I, a member of the body of Christ, receive the body of Christ. Receiving the body of Christ, we become the body of Christ. And, just as Christ shared in our humanity, we shall share in His divinity.

We are filled with Him, and may be even overcome with awe; there's a reason that many of us bury our face in our hands when we return to our places and pray and await as the other members of Christ's body who are gathered here with us receive the body of Christ also. And in respect, when physically possible, we stay kneeling or standing, not sitting down, until everyone has received and any leftover Hosts have been reposed. And we abide in the closest personal relationship possible with the Lord Jesus Christ, in great recognition of His Body, and we give thanks.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Divine Liturgy IV: The Mystery of Faith!

Now, after our offering is prepared, we are again called to strict attention: "Lift up your hearts!" "We lift them up to the Lord!"

And, kneeling at attention, or standing at attention, depending on whether it's a Sunday or a weekday and whether our parish is Nicea-ed or GIRM-ed, our priest, our bishop, prays, and us with him, our great Eucharistic prayer, our hymn of thanksgiving. And we know, by our own experience, that our Lord's one great offering did not happen two millenia ago to our long-unremembered ancestors ---- that great offering is here among us, is always and forever now. Jesus promised us that He Himself would be our true foor and drink, and He is God, who always keeps His promises.

Christ is, now and forever, risen; not in the past but now. We dealt death to Him, and He eternally conquers.

And that which had been the plainest of bread and wine is now, by this great gift, His own body and blood, that we might eat and drink and live life true and eternal.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Divine Liturgy III: What earth has given and human hands have made

Even from the beginnings, there has been a collection as part of Mass. For, there's a necessity. The Eucharist is not only a gift granted, willy-nilly ---- though Eucharist would not be without the Lord's continual generosity. The Eucharist begins as the good that we gather and offer to God for Him to use. There is no Bread of Life nor Cup of Eternal Salvation, no body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ really present, without there first being bread and wine that we provide, our gift to God. Our God has chosen, in this case, not to create His gifts from nothing, but to transform the gifts, small as they may be, that we give to Him, into His great gift to us.

"He took the bread and blessed it." How did He bless it? The gospels don't tell us. They didn't have to say, because everybody knew that; every time bread was eaten, all their life from infancy, they had heard the blessing. "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth." And so we bless and offer up that bread, and that wine, that we give and that the Lord will transform for us from ordinary food that nourishes this life to the true food and true drink that nourishes eternal life.
Divine Liturgy II: Wisdom! Attend!

Now that we have prepared, we turn to the ambo, the table where we are nourished by the Lord's words in the Sacred Scripture. We are nourished, we are strengthened, we are enlightened; we learn of the Lord's works and glories, and give Him thanks for His great generosity in giving us the Word's words.

We give especial honor to the Book of the Gospels. We stand. We sign ourselves, asking the Lord that we may be opened to hear and to proclaim. The risen Christ is truly with us in His holy Gospels.

Then our priest or our bishop teaches us, that we may more fully understand God's holy words, just as St. Philip explained the Scriptures to the Ethiopian on the road. We do not want to be ignorant. St. Jerome was correct when he said: Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.

Friday, October 24, 2003

On the Divine Liturgy I: I will go unto the altar of God, the God who gives joy to my youth.

Before we begin, we call ourselves to attention. My headline is from the Mass of my childhood, and was the beginning of the penitential rite in thoes days, and, though the words have changed, what we do is the same. We are called to attention, and prepare ourselves, by begging the forgiveness of our sins. We place to one side for this time all the distractions and troubles and trials in order to do this timeless work. All liturgy is the work of the faithful --- that is what the very word "liturgy" means.

Knowing our weakness and faults, but knowing also the faithfulness and the mercy of God, we draw near, both because we love and because we are commanded to do so. As our bishop or our priest ascends those three steps that separate the altar from everywhere else, to reverence the altar; as we beg each other for prayers in the Confiteor and plead for the Lord's mercy; we prepare ourselves to participate in this great offering with the entire Church in all times, and outside of time in the eternal present.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

"A person's a person, no matter how small..."

Could there be any doubt which Dr. Suess character I'd be?

Which Dr. Seuss character are you?

brought to you by Quizilla

Monday, October 20, 2003

"Prayer at the appointed hours" from the Liturgy of the Hours

Specifically, from St. Augustine's letter to Proba, in today's Office of Readings.

Let us always desire the happy life from the Lord God and always pray for it. But for this very reason we turn our mind to the task of prayer at appointed hours, since that desire grows lukewarm, so to speak, from our involvement in other concerns and occupations. We remind ourselves through the words of prayer to focus our attention on the object of our desire; otherwise, the desire that began to grow lukewarm may grow chill altogether and may be totally extinguished unless it is repeatedly stirred into flame.

Therefore, when the Apostle says:
Let your petitions become known before God, this should not be taken in the sense that they are in fact becoming known to God who certainly knew them even before they were made, but that they are becoming known to us before God through submission and not before men through boasting.

Since this is the case, it is not wrong or useless to pray even for a long time when there is the opportunity. I mean when it does not keep us from performing the other good and necessary actions we are obliged to do. But even in these actions, as I have said, we must always pray with that desire. To pray for a longer time is not the same as to pray by multiplying words, as some people suppose. Lengthy talk is one thing, a prayerful disposition which lasts a long time is another. For it is even written in reference to the Lord himself that he spent the night in prayer and that he prayed at great length. Was he not giving us an example by this? In time, he prays when it is appropriate, and in eternity, he hears our prayers with the Father.

The monks in Egypt are said to offer frequent prayers, but these are very short and hurled like swift javelins. Otherwise their watchful attention, a very necessary quality for anyone at prayer, could be dulled and could disappear through protracted delays. They also clearly demonstrate through this practice that a person must not quickly divert such attention if it lasts, just as one must not allow it to be blunted if it cannot last.

Excessive talking should be kept out of prayer but that does not mean that one should not spend much time in prayer so long as a fervent attitude continues to accompany his prayer. To talk at length in prayer is to perform a necessary action with an excess of words. To spend much time in prayer is to knock with a persistent and holy fervour at the door of the one whom we beseech. This task is generally accomplished more through sighs than words, more through weeping than speech. He places
our tears in his sight, and our sighs are not hidden from him, for he has established all things through his Word and does not seek human words.
An exhortation from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
.....Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
.....Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
.....Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
.....Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
.....Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
.....Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
.....Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
.....Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.


Friday, October 17, 2003

"Let nothing exist among you that may divide you; but be ye united with your bishop..."

Today is the memorial of Saint Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, who followed St. Peter as bishop in that place. He left for us seven letters, which he wrote during his journey to Rome to be martyred. This is some of what he left to us:

to the Magnesians:

I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time, and in the end was revealed. Do ye all then, imitating the same divine conduct, pay respect to one another, and let no one look upon his neighbour after the flesh, but do ye continually love each other in Jesus Christ. Let nothing exist among you that may divide you ; but be ye united with your bishop, and those that preside over you, as a type and evidence of your immortality.

As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do ye anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavour that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but being come together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled. There is one Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is more excellent. Do ye therefore all run together as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from one Father, and is with and has gone to one.

and to the Philadelphians:

Wherefore, as children of light and truth, flee from division and wicked doctrines; but where the shepherd is, there do ye as sheep follow. For there are many wolves that appear worthy of credit, who, by means of a pernicious pleasure, carry captive those that are running towards God; but in your unity they shall have no place.

Keep yourselves from those evil plants which Jesus Christ does not tend, because they are not the planting of the Father. Not that I have found any division among you, but exceeding purity. For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ.].

Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to [the will of] God.

I might be disabled, but I'm Not Dead Yet

As we do whatever we can to help Teri Schindler Schiavo in her passion, we also have to call to mind that there are more victims on the roster to follow.

Shrugging shoulders and giving up is not a viable option. Care, and fight --- even if only for your own self-interest, for "disabled" is the one "minority" that absolutely anyone can join without choice or warning.

The good people of Not Dead Yet have been fighting the fight for the right to life for disabled people for many years, and continue to do so. They filed an amici brief on Teri's behalf, and are very much involved in the vigils and protests concerning Teri. Do pay their site a visit, and, of course, keep on praying for Teri --- and more, if you're able.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

being reminded to be grateful

On his 25th anniversary, the Holy Father has given us another little gift: the pastoral letter Pastores gregis.

I read it today, and it instills in me gratitude for being allowed to be an adopted daughter of Milwaukee, where we have been so very blessed in our shepherds for so very many decades. Also grateful for being the beneficiary of so many wise and pious, devoted and dedicated, bishops and priests in my life. So, this evening, a special little extra remembrance

"for John Paul our Pope, for Timothy our Archbishop, for Richard and Rembert, and for all the bishops....."
One of the Credibly Accused, and he opened not his mouth: St. Gerard Majella

I wish to love God.
I wish always to be with God,
and to do everything for the love of God.
The center of all love for God
consists in giving ourselves entirely to God
by being in all things conformable to the divine will,
and remaining in this conformity for all eternity.

St. Gerard was a tailor, born in 1727 to a family in that trade. He was still an apprentice when his father died; he became a servant in the household of a cantankerous bishop for a while, then he went back to his hometown and opened his own tailor shop.

In 1748 he entered the Redemptorist community as a lay-brother; the founder of the community, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, received his profession in 1752. Gerard served as tailor and infirmarian in the community, and became known for great holiness and charity, and for charisms of prophesy and infused knowledge; his advice and spiritual direction was sought after even though he was not a priest.

However, disaster was coming over the horizon.

In 1754, a woman whom Gerard had helped to enter the convent washed out of the convent, and to distract attention from her failure at religious life she accused Gerard of fornication and lechery, and that he had imposed himself upon the young daughter of a gentleman who regularly gave hospitality to travelling Redemptorists, believably. When confronted with the charges, Gerard made no answer at all to them, and, the charges being credible, he was placed under every penalty short of expulsion from the community: close confinement and surveillance, no contact with the outside world, exclusion from communion..... and this went on for months and months. Finally, the accuser became gravely ill, and, believing herself to be dying, she admitted she had lied about Gerard. When St. Alphonsus asked Gerard why he had remained silent before the accusations, Gerard replied that he believed that was what was required in the face of unjust accusations; after all, Jesus did not answer Pilate, and the rule of the Redemptorists said that one was not to defend oneself from the charges of one's superior.

Not long after he was cleared of the charges, he died, of TB, in 1755 at the age of 29.

An interesting link to information on St. Gerard Majella is here
And another interesting link is here.


Tuesday, October 14, 2003

How God works in the human soul: St. Teresa of Avila and her Way of Perfection

[from chapter 16]

Returning to what I was saying, there are souls whom God knows He may gain for Himself by this means; seeing that they are completely lost, His Majesty wants to leave no stone unturned to help them; and therefore, though they are in a sad way and lacking in virtues, He gives them consolations, favours and emotions which begin to move their desires, and occasionally even brings them to a state of contemplation, though rarely and not for long at a time. And this, as I say, He does because He is testing them to see if that favour will not make them anxious to prepare themselves to enjoy it often; if it does not, may they be pardoned; pardon Thou us, Lord, for it is a dreadful thing that a soul whom Thou hast brought near to Thyself should approach any earthly thing and become attached to it.

For my own part I believe there are many souls whom God our Lord tests in this way, and few who prepare themselves to enjoy this favour. When the Lord does this and we ourselves leave nothing undone either, I think it is certain that He never ceases from giving until He has brought us to a very high degree of prayer. If we do not give ourselves to His Majesty as resolutely as He gives Himself to us, He will be doing more than enough for us if He leaves us in mental prayer and from time to time visits us as He would visit servants in His vineyard. But these others are His beloved children, whom He would never want to banish from His side; and, as they have no desire to leave Him, He never does so. He seats them at His table, and feeds them with His own food, almost taking the food from His mouth in order to give it them.

Oh, what blessed care of us is this, my daughters! How happy shall we be if by leaving these few, petty things we can arrive at so high an estate! Even if the whole world should blame you, and deafen you with its cries, what matter so long as you are in the arms of God? He is powerful enough to free you from everything; for only once did He command the world to be made and it was done; with Him, to will is to do. Do not be afraid, then, if He is pleased to speak with you, for He does this for the greater good of those who love Him. His love for those to whom He is dear is by no means so weak: He shows it in every way possible. Why, then, my sisters, do we not show Him love in so far as we can? Consider what a wonderful exchange it is if we give Him our love and receive His. Consider that He can do all things, and we can do nothing here below save as He enables us. And what is it that we do for Thee, O Lord, our Maker? We do hardly anything --- just make some poor weak resolution. And, if His Majesty is pleased that by doing a mere nothing we should win everything, let us not be so foolish as to fail to do it.

O Lord! All our trouble comes to us from not having our eyes fixed upon Thee. If we only looked at the way along which we are walking, we should soon arrive; but we stumble and fall a thousand times and stray from the way because, as I say, we do not set our eyes on the true Way. One would think that no one had ever trodden it before, so new is it to us. It is indeed a pity that this should sometimes happen. I mean, it hardly seems that we are Christians at all or that we have ever in our lives read about the Passion. Lord help us --- that we should be hurt about some small point of honour! And then, when someone tells us not to worry about it, we think he is no Christian. I used to laugh --- or sometimes I used to be distressed --- at the things I heard in the world, and sometimes, for my sins, in religious Orders. We refuse to be thwarted over the very smallest matter of precedence: apparently such a thing is quite intolerable. We cry out at once: "Well, I'm no saint"; I used to say that myself.

God deliver us, sisters, from saying "We are not angels", or "We are not saints", whenever we commit some imperfection. We may not be; but what a good thing it is for us to reflect that we can be if we will only try and if God gives us His hand! Do not be afraid that He will fail to do His part if we do not fail to do ours. And since we come here for no other reason, let us put our hands to the plough, as they say. Let there be nothing we know of which it would be a service to the Lord for us to do, and which, with His help, we would not venture to take in hand. I should like that kind of venturesomeness to be found in this house, as it always increases humility. We must have a holy boldness, for God helps the strong, being no respecter of persons; and He will give courage to you and to me.


Monday, October 13, 2003

from the CINJustAnn listserv this morning [via ZENIT]:
On Evangelical Poverty, interviewing Father Thomas Dubay

Since Gospel poverty is so deeply countercultural, especially in the First World, how do we open people's minds even to give it a fair hearing?

Father Dubay:
There are several problems here. One is that most people do not know what Gospel poverty means. For example, it does not mean we promote destitution. On the contrary, the Lord in the radical things he says is trying to rub out destitution --- which is why we are to share with the needy.

Another problem is that we seldom hear from the pulpit anything near to a full picture of the sparing and sharing lifestyle that is so beautiful. Christic frugality is love-filled. It is not a Spartan or Buddhist ideal.

A third problem lies in free will. Unfortunately, there are people who so cling to their pleasures and luxuries that they have decided that anything that interferes with their lifestyles is going to get little to no attention.

What, then, are Jesus, his apostles and the Church promoting?

Father Dubay:
It took me the entire book, "Happy Are You Poor," to answer this question with some adequacy. That is why it is written. The full answer is beautiful. However, let me give one simple answer, though there are many others.

It is easy for you and me to say, "Of course I love my neighbor as myself," and then turn around and treat myself far better than I treat the family next door or the pitiful slum dwellers in Haiti or Calcutta.

Consider fiery John the Baptist preparing the way for the Lord and making plain the facts of sincere repentance: "Brood of vipers ... the ax is laid to the root of the trees ... and thrown into the fire."

Understandably, the people are shaken up and ask what they should do to show conversion. His answer is plain: "If anyone has two tunics, he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same." That is real love and sound logic, and any honest person should be able to see it. To live it requires radical conversion.

How can we open people's minds to what love is all about? How do we sound the wake-up call?

Father Dubay:
Feodor Dostoyevsky, perhaps the best novelist in the 19th century, wrote brilliantly about the question of God and atheism. In one spot, he put on the lips of a character the fact that if a person does not worship the real God, he will bend his knees before things created and finite. There are, he added, no atheists --- they are really idolaters.

That, of course, is true. Everyone has one or more consuming concerns. It's either the real God or money, power, pleasures, lust, pride in its various forms and so on. One or more of these latter becomes idols, as the man who rejects the only God centers his thoughts, desires, aspirations, worries and concerns on his idol. They are gods to him.

Anyone who has embraced the Trinity has little trouble understanding Gospel frugality --- the whats, whys and hows of it are explained.

Pope John Paul II has warned about mistaken ideas of freedom. How is Gospel poverty related to true freedom?

Father Dubay:
Freedom and love are probably the least understood of common words in our contemporary world. Most people assume with little thought that greater freedom implies fewer laws and restrictions. There is a kernel of truth in this idea, but it is a secondary and consequential kernel.

Freedom is most basically a power to do and to be. For example, you are free to play the violin or do bypass surgery only to the extent that you have the requisite knowledge and skills. The same is true of being free to teach a class in physics or philosophy or theology. If you have these basic powers and goods, then you should not be unduly
restricted from exercising them.

Jesus made this point clearly when he said that if we have his Word, its truth will make us free. This is why the saints, the men and women who live his message with heroic perfection, are the most free and fulfilled people on the planet. They rejoice with the Lord always, as St. Paul in Philippians 4:4 admonishes all of us.

How, then, would you relate this fundamental reality to evangelical poverty?

Father Dubay:
All the benefits I discuss in my book empower a person to become a beautiful, loving, real person. What I said about idol worship earlier is much to this point.

Avarice enslaves a man in a multitude of ways easy to imagine. Vanity about possessions is much like vanity about accomplishments and bodily beauty --- one is held in bondage to the minds of other people.

When one is freed of selfish clinging to material goods, one is then free to love neighbor in fact as well as in mere words.

What is detachment, and how is it related to freedom?

Father Dubay:
It may be easier to see the point by explaining what attachment is in the pejorative sense. A handy and accurate definition is: a clinging or desiring of the will to do something created for its own sake.

There are three elements here: It is a willed desire, not a mere feeling; it concerns something finite, not God; "for its own sake" makes a mere means into an end, that is, something of an idol.

St. Paul puts the matter positively in 1 Corinthians 10:31: "Whether you eat or drink or do anything else, do all for the glory of God." All created goodness and beauty is meant to bring others and us to the unspeakable enthrallment of the beatific vision in risen body. To willingly cling to anything merely created for its own sake reminds me of Dostoyevsky's analysis: It is either idolatry or it tends in that direction.

How do the ideas of stewardship versus total "rights" over material goods fit into this picture?

Father Dubay:
Stewardship, detachment and a loving, sparing and sharing lifestyle make a beautiful whole. Total rights over material goods sounds like human beings assuming a divine status.

What suggestions do you have for the layperson who truly wants to live the spirit of Gospel poverty, but who must meet the day-to-day demands of raising a family and paying bills?

Father Dubay:
In my book, I address this topic in Chapter 12, "Frugality in Marriage."

I have been joyously surprised to hear from sizable groups of laity in different parts of the United States who spontaneously have decided to study this book and then meet regularly to discuss how its Gospel message is to be applied specially to their state in life. That is an excellent answer to the present question.

Then, too, knowing the married saints and seeing how they responded to this question can be an immense enlightenment and encouragement.

How should the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and their aftermath open us to re-evaluate what is most important in life and to discover our wealth of potential to love?

Father Dubay:
This is a matter of deep conversion not only from mortal sin but also in giving up venial sins and going on to heroic
virtues - - to which the Gospel repeatedly calls everyone. And that, in turn, demands a deepening of prayer life, meditation leading to contemplative intimacy with the Trinity. Yes, all the way to the transforming union.

As Han Urs von Balthasar put it, "Truth is symphonic." It all fits together.


Sunday, October 12, 2003

"Sell all you have, give it to the poor, and come, follow Me"

from Ven. John Henry Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermons:

All through our life Christ is calling us. He called us first in baptism, but afterwards also; whether we obey his voice or not, he graciously calls us still. If we fall from our baptism, he calls us to repent; if we are striving to fulfil our calling, he calls us on from grace to grace, and from holiness to holiness, while life is given us. Abraham was called from his home, Peter from his nets, Matthew from his office, Elisha from his farm, Nathanael from his retreat; we are all in course of calling, on and on, from one thing to another, having no resting place, but mounting towards our eternal rest, and obeying one command only to have another put upon us. He calls us again and again, in order to justify us again and again --- and again and again, and more and more, to sanctify and glorify us.

It were well if we understood this; but we are slow to master the great truth, that Christ is, as it were, walking among us, and by his hand, or eye, or voice, bidding us follow him. We do not understand that his call is a thing which takes place now. We think it took place in the Apostles' day; but we do not believe in it, we do not look out for it in our own case. We have not eyes to see the Lord; far different from the beloved Apostle, who knew Christ even when the rest of the disciples knew him not. When he stood on the shore after his resurrection, and bade them cast the net into the sea, that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, It is the Lord.

Now what I mean is this: that they who are living religiously, have from time to time truths they did not know before, or had no need to consider, brought before them forcibly; truths which involve duties, which are in fact precepts, and claim obedience. In this and such-like ways Christ calls us now. There is nothing miraculous or extraordinary in his dealings with us. He works through our natural faculties and circumstances of life. Still what happens to us in providence is in all essential respects what his voice was to those whom he addressed when on earth: whether he commands by a visible presence, or by a voice, or by our consciences, it matters not, so that we feel it to be a command. If it is a command, it may be obeyed or disobeyed; it may be accepted as Samuel or St. Paul accepted it, or put aside after the manner of the young man who had great possessions.

We need not fear spiritual pride in following Christ's call, if we follow it as people in earnest. Earnestness has no time to compare itself with the state of others; earnestness is simply set on doing God's will. It simply says, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth; Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Oh that we had more of this spirit! Oh that we could take that simple view of things, as to feel that the one thing which lies before us is to please God!

Let us beg and pray Him day by day to reveal Himself to our souls more fully; to quicken our senses; to give us sight and hearing, taste and touch of the world to come; so to work within us that we may sincerely say, Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and after that receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee: my flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.


Saturday, October 11, 2003

Joao Bosco Burnier, SJ +12 October 1976

Joao Bosco Burnier was a Brazilian Jesuit of very well-to-do family, who, after long service --- faithful, diligent, obedient, but not very successful --- as a glorified file clerk in Rome, and then as vice-provincial and master of novices during the implementation of the Ecumenical Council, was assigned in the late 1960's as a pastor in Mato Grosso state, first in Cuiaba and later even deeper into the Brazilian wilderness at Diamantino, where he lived and worked as a very conventional missionary priest.

In the first week of October 1976, Father Joao attended a pastoral meeting at Santa Terezinha; he'd treated himself to an airplane ride to get there, but he would do the return trip by outrigger canoe and bus, accompanying his bishop on an episcopal visitation of the circuit.

On the afternoon of the eleventh, the bishop and Father Joao arrived in the settlement of Ribeirao Bonito. Father Joao spent his afternoon praying and pondering in the parish's little garden, then he, the bishop, and the local pastoral staff, gathered with the faithful at the river to gather the water needed for the next day's baptisms, take it to the church, and bless it. Towards the end of the service, someone came in panic with a report of two local women being tortured in the local jail, and could the bishop come and try to stop it. The bishop agreed, but did not allow any of the local pastoral staff to accompany him, for fear of reprisals after he left them. But he did allow Father Joao to go with him to the jail, since Father would leave when he did and not be an ongoing target.

At this point, I'll let Robert McAfee Brown tell the story, in Legenda Aurea style ["The Wondrous Mystery of the Efficacious Death of Father Joao", The Other Side, October 1986]:

And when, after a father resisted the taking captive of his two beloved sons by a most barbarous officer, killing the officer in self-defense, behold, the police took his sister and his daughter-in-law captive and beat them, inflicting all manner of cruel tortures upon them. And when their cries became ever louder and their pleadings more inportunate, a youth in the village, hearing their distress, went forthwith to the bishop, entreating him to intercede on their behalf. And straightway did the bishop go to the police station, taking with him the blessed Joao, a member of the Society of Jesus who pled to accompany his excellency on an errand of such justice and mercy.

So brutal were the police, who, without ceasing, were continuing to inflict cruel assaults on the women, that when Father Joao stated his intention to report the matter to the regional authorities, a soldier who was present smote him a blow on the face and shot him through the head straightway.

Father Joao made his peace with God and prepared to die. He assured those who sought in vain to assauge his wounds that he offered up his life and death for the people who had been wronged in that region and repeated several times, in recollection of his beloved Savior on the Cross, the words,
Consummatum est, "it is accomplished." After three hours, he lost consciousness. The next day, he died.

Father Joao's body was taken to Diamantino, where he was buried in the village cemetery, among the people whom he loved and who loved him. But, that's not quite the end of the story. For the people of Ribeirao Bonito were extremely disturbed; if one of them had been pistolwhipped and shot, that was just the way life is, but to attack a priest of God, that was just too much to endure! So, returning to "The Wondrous Mystery....":

And the people, who until now had been fearful to speak their indignation at acts of perfidy against their kind, did now wax wondrously indignant at the death of Father Joao and were not accepting of it. And behold, at the seventh-day Mass to honor the memory of the slain priest, their indignation overflowed, and, lamenting the evil that had been their lot, they marched in great solidarity to the site of his murder and of the torture of the two women, and there they planted a cross as a memorial. Then some, no longer willing to accept their lot, shouted out their wrath. "This is not a place where justice has been done," some said. "This is not a place where justice can be done." And together they acted out their wrath, destroying with their hands and fists and shovels and axes the police station, after which they broke down the walls of the jail and freed the prisoners, responding to the mandate of the Lord to liberate the captives.

And when there was no longer stone upon stone in that place, only the cross remained --- a cross of suffering, of judgment, of triumph. [....]

And the governors of the realm did hear of these actions and the actions of divers others elsewhere. And it came to pass that they enacted laws that forbade torture. And thus it was that Father Joao's death was efficacious for the ongoing life of many others and remains so to this day.

Joao Bosco Burnier, priest, holy defender of the innocent, pray for us.
Wisdom from Bl. John XXIII's journal, on his memorial day

From the saints I must take the substance, not the accidents of their virtues. I am not St. Aloysius, nor must I seek holiness in his particular way, but according to the requirements of my own nature, my own character and the different conditions of my life. I must not be the dry, bloodless reproduction of a model, however perfect.

God desires us to follow the examples of the saints by absorbing the vital sap of their virtues and turning it into our own life-blood, adapting it to our own individual capacities and particular circumstances. If St. Aloysius had been as I am, he would have become holy in a different way.


Friday, October 10, 2003

Ancestry is not destiny: St. Francis Borgia

If ancestry was destiny, we'd never have today's saint, since he suffered from extremely unfortunate ancestors. Francis was the illegitimate great-grandson of Pope Alexander of unfortunate memory. For all of Pope Alexander's many faults, he did not abandon his children, but acknowledged them and assured that they were securely placed in life, so he gave to Francis' grandfather his son the Duchy of Gandia.

So Francis grew up as a Spanish nobleman and heir. He loved learning, and received a quite creditable education, which he put to good use as a royal courtier. Eventually, he inherited the title from his father, and lived as a ordinarily upright and conventionally pious duke. He was successful in court politics, married a lady of the court, and had eight children. As Duke, he founded a university and several colleges, and imported Jesuits and Dominicans to run them.

Due to a series of personal reverses, including the death of his wife, he experienced a conversion, and became much more serious about his spiritual life, not that he was at all impious before. After concluding all of his outstanding political affairs, and seeing to the future provision of his children, he yielded his noble title to his heir and entered the Society of Jesus, where, besides growing in holiness, he eventually became the third General of the Society. Instrumental in regulating the internal functioning of the Society, he is often called the second founder of the society.

So, ancestry and genetics are not all there is; they are very minor next to the graces and mercies of God.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Searchable Catechism

The Knights of Columbus searchable Catechism seems to have disappeared, so I've replaced it in the sidebar with the christusrex.org version. My apologies to any of you who tried to use it while the link was broken.
Queries for a Bloggers' Examen II: the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Blogging

In church-bureaucrat-speak, blogs are called "a medium of social communication", and paragraphs 2493-2499 are about us. So, from reading then, what questions do rise up?

2493 is definitions.

2394: Do I consider the common good when I post and publish, or only my own ego-shine? Do I tell the truth? Have I ever omitted or manipulated some of the facts to make them say what I wanted them to say? Do I keep in mind that the people I blog about have rights and human dignity?

2495: Do I truly seek to know and respect others? Do I respectfully challenge ideas, or do I attack people? Do I shout down without a hearing those whose ideas differ from my own?

2496: Do I neglect my duties in real life in order to read sites? Do I keep in mind that not everything I read in the blogosphere may be factual, and that all that may be factual may not be true? Do I discipline myself to avoid those sites that are, for whatever reason, near occasions of sin for me?

2497: Have I ever lied in my blog? Do I acknowledge and respect the distinction between reporting facts and judging individuals? Have I ever defamed anybody by my blogs? If so, have I made amends, insofar as possible?

2498, which is mostly about civil authorities: Have I ever used my blog, or anywhere else on the Net, for illegal activity (e.g., libel, slander, warez, inciting civil disorder)? Or for unethical or immoral activities, even if legal (e.g., porn, spam)?

2499, about totalitarian regimes: Am I thankful for my freedom to write and publish? Do I respect this freedom, and rightly use it, never abusing it?


Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Do I take after Jonah? a query for a blogger's examen

In the past few days, Mother Church has presented Jonah for our edification. And, along with the study I've been up to to form a set of queries for blogs, it suggests one:

Do I fear changes, lest I lose my excuses to despise and the "safe" targets for my hate? Do I look with dismay on God because of His universal love and pity?

When Jonah was sent to preach to the people of Nineveh, he fled. But he did not flee because he was afraid of God; if he was afraid of God, he'd be going to Nineveh at double speed lest God zap him. He did not flee because he feared martyrdom at the hands of those foul Ninevites; he knew that the power of God and his status as stranger and guest in Nineveh would protect him.

He fled because he feared that the Ninevites, whom he despised, would repent at his words. He wanted Nineveh destroyed. And he knew God. He knew that if the Ninevites repented, that God would relent, and (oh, the very thought!) refuse to destroy them.

Even after all of Jonah's tribulations, after he preached to Nineveh, and they repent, and the Lord relents, this is how he prays, in his deep blue funk:

Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry that God did not carry out the evil he threatened against Nineveh. He prayed, "I beseech you, LORD, is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? This is why I fled at first to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, loathe to punish. And now, LORD, please take my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live."

Do I, at times, behave like Jonah? Do I ever despise or regret the love and mercy of God? Do I believe that anybody, any group, ought to be beyond the grace and mercies of God?

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Please pray for my dear parish...

.....for the long rumored fecal matter has very publicly hit the revolving oscillator this evening.

Ever since there was still snow on the ground this spring the word's been being passed around; bad news is just around the corner; the parish is gonna lose thousands of dollars we don't have; etc., etc., and so forth. The only thing to do was shrug and pray. Well, now we know what we've been praying about.

An embezzler on the parish staff stole over a third of a million dollars from this thriving, active, building-rich but cash-poor parish over years, before being discovered, fired, and reported to the police in March. Tonight, it led the night news.

So please join us in continuing to pray for the Church of the Gesu.

And also in giving thanks that this is all it was (not a new chapter in the national Situation!)

Saturday, October 04, 2003

from St. Francis' Letter to All the Faithful

It was through his archangel, Saint Gabriel, that the Father above made known to the holy and glorious Virgin Mary that the worthy, holy and glorious Word of the Father would come from heaven and take from her womb the real flesh of our human frailty. Though he was wealthy beyond reckoning, he still willingly chose to be poor with his blessed mother. And shortly before his passion he celebrated the Passover with his disciples. Then he prayed to his Father saying: Father, if it be possible, let this cup be taken from me.

Nevertheless, he reposed his will in the will of his Father. The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son, whom he gave to us and who was born for us, should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross. This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made, but for our sins. It was intended to leave us an example of how to follow in his footsteps. And he desires all of us to be saved through him, and to receive him with pure heart and chaste body.

O how happy and blessed are those who love the Lord and do as the Lord himself said in the gospel:
You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul, and your neighbor as yourself. Therefore, let us love God and adore him with pure heart and mind. This is his particular desire when he says: True worshipers adore the Father in spirit and truth. For all who adore him must do so in the spirit of truth. Let us also direct to him our praises and prayers saying: Our Father, who art in heaven, since we must always pray and never grow slack.

Furthermore, let us produce worthy fruits of penance. Let us also love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us have charity and humility. Let us give alms because these cleanse our souls from the stains of sin. Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve.

We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather we must be simple, humble and pure. We should never desire to be over others. Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to every human being for God's sake. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on all who live in this way and persevere in it to the end. He will permanently dwell in them. They will be the Father's children who do his work. They are the spouses, brothers and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

another bishop's blogging!

I usually don't bother posting about changes to my blogroll, but this one deserves special comment.

Ever since I learned how to have a blogroll, +Seraphim's Live Journal has had a place on it, and it was my impression that +Seraphim was the only bishop who blogged. Today, thanks in part to Mark Shea, I've found another bishop blogger --- +Robert, bishop of Baker. His site, The Heart and Mind of Bishop Vasa, is voluminous and wonderful, and now has its place, along with +Seraphim's, in the blogroll. Go, give his site a look-see; I believe you will not regret it. You might pay +Seraphim a visit while you're at it, he's great also.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Transitus night

This night, many years ago, was the night that our brother Francis was Called to his Father.

It had been seen coming for a long time, Francis was never very strong, and he'd been ill and frail ever since he had come back from the Crusades with that eye disease. And, a few years before, he had become totally conformed to his Lord --- the holy brother Leo the priest had witnessed it --- and his suffering was extreme. But now the time had actually arrived.

Earlier in the day, Francis had asked one of his brothers to go, just as fast as he could, to Rome, and bring back to him the third lady in his life, after Lady Poverty and the Lady Clare, Jacopa Frangipani di Settesoli, and if she could please bring with her some fabric for his shroud and a batch of those almond cookies it would be such a goodness. [All the brothers were entirely hooked on Jacopa's almond cookies.] But before the brother could even leave the place, Jacopa and her entourage rode up; she said she'd had a vision to come. She even had with her the new shroud, everything necessary to prepare the body for burial, and even a triple batch of those almond cookies. A few of the brothers were upset about Jacopa's arrival, and wouldn't let her into the place; after all, she was a girl, and there were rules. But Francis told them to lighten up and let Brother Jacopa in.

Francis asked his brothers to take him out of bed and lay him on the ground. He took some bread, broke it and shared it with them each, then asked that Jesus' words at the Last Supper [John 14-17] be read for him. The community then sang the Canticle of the Creatures that Francis had composed, and then prayed some psalms. Francis died during Psalm 142, his last words were, "Bring my soul out of prison, and I shall praise Your name."

Thus did our brother Francis pass from this life to the life true and eternal; may he pray for us, that we may also be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

"I shall appear before You with empty hands"

Today is the celebration of St. Therese of Lisieux, doctor of the Church.

It took me much too long to discover her; I fell victim to the 1950's tendency to soak saints in sugar syrup and candy coating, and when I first read her, I couldn't find her. And she's a saint least needing that dreck --- she's a Victorian teenager. Like raisins and dates and figs, she's plenty sweet enough naturally. Fortunately, when I became older, I gave her another chance, encouraged by the clear respect given her teaching by my now-retired archbishop, and with the help of new, uncandied translations, have come to appreciate her insights also.

The prime presumption: There are ways to God for the great and the strong and the mighty; there must also be ways for the small and the weak and the frail. And, with the help of God, she give the Church a "Little Way" to great holiness.

She prays:

In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!

That wise archbishop comments:

She [St. Therese] once wrote that she wanted to go to God empty-handed. I think I know now personally what she meant by that phrase. I have learned how frail my own human nature is, how in need of God's loving embrace I am. Empty-handed for me now means a willingness to accept my humanity totally, just as Christ accepted that same human nature out of love. But for me it also means to be fully receptive to whatever God wants to place in those hands, to be ready with empty hands to receive new life.

By St. Therese, from today's Office of Readings:

Since my longing for martyrdom was powerful and unsettling, I turned to the epistles of St. Paul in the hope of finally finding an answer. By chance the 12th and 13th chapters of the 1st epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention, and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher, that the Church is composed of a variety of members, and that the eye cannot be the hand. Even with such an answer revealed before me, I was not satisfied and did not find peace.

I persevered in the reading and did not let my mind wander until I found this encouraging theme:
Set your desires on the greater gifts. And I will show you the way which surpasses all others. For the Apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love and that this same love is surely the best path leading directly to God. At length I had found peace of mind.

When I had looked upon the mystical body of the Church, I recognised myself in none of the members which St. Paul described, and what is more, I desired to distinguish myself more favourably within the whole body. Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation. Indeed I knew that the Church had a body composed of various members, but in this body the necessary and more noble member was not lacking; I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I saw and realised that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting.

Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and You gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.